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which the soldiers rushed forward toward the distant light.
Instantly it disappeared, and when they reached the spot naught was seen, save the tomb of Adauctus ; and in the distant darkness was heard the sound of hurrying feet.
“ The rats have fled,” cried the officer; them, ferrets! Let not one escape !” and at the head of the maniple he darted down the echoing corridor.
But Hilarus guided his friends amid the darkness more swiftly than the soldiers couli pursue by the light of their torches. He followed many a devious winding, especially contrived to frustrate capture, and facilitate escape. Threading a very narrow passage, he drew from a niche a wooden Lidder, and placing it against the wall reached a stairway which began high up near the roof. The whole party followed, and Hilarus, drawing up the ladder after him, completely cut off pursuit. They soon reached the comparatively lofty vaults of a deserted arenarium, or sand pit, which communicated with the open air. As he stood with bared brow beneath the light of the silent stars, the good Presbyter Primitius devoutly exclaimed: -"Anima nostra sicut passer erepta est de laqueo venantium-Our soul is escaped as a bird out the snare of the fuwler, the snare is broken and we are escaped."
The writer has not drawn upon his imagination in describing the ariangements for escape made by the persecuted Christians, when taking refuge in these dens and caves of the earth. In this very Catacomb of Calixtus, such a secret stairway still exists, and is illustrated by drawings in his book on this subject. The main entrance was completely obstructer', and the stairway partially destroyed, so as to prevent ingress to the Catacomb, and a narrow stairway was constructed in the roof which could only be reached by a moveable ladder, connecting it with the floor. By drawing up this ladder pursuit could be easily cut off, and escape to a neighbouring arenarium secured. Stores of corn, and oil, and wine have been found in these crypts, eviilently as a provision in time of persecution; frequent wells also occur, amply sufficient for the supply of water; and the multitude of lamps which have been found would dispel the darkness, while their sudden extinction would prove the best concealment from attack by their enemies. Hence the Christians were stigmatized as a skulking, darkness-loving race,* who fled the light of day to burrow like moles in the earth. These labyrinths were admirably adapted for eluding pursuit. Familiar with their intricacies, and following a well-known clew, the Christian could plunge fearlessly into the darkness, where his pursuer would soon be inextricably lost.
* Latebrosa et lucifugix natio.-Minuc. Felix.
Such hairbreadth escapes as we have described from the Roman soldiers, like sleuth hounds tracking their prey, must have been no uncommon events in those troublous times. But sometimes the Christians were surprised at their devotions, and their refuge became their sepulchre. Such was the tragic fate of Stephen, slain even while ministering at the altar; such the event described by Gregory of Tours, when a hecatomb of victims were immolated at once by heathen hate; such the peril which wrung from a stricken heart the cry, not of anger but of grief, recorded on a slab in the Catacombs : Tempora infausta, quibus inter sacra et vota ne in cavernis quidem salvari possimus !—“Oh! sad times in which, among sacred rites and prayers, even in caverns, we are not safe.” It requires no great effort of imagination to conceive of the dangers and escapes which must have been frequent episodes in the heroic lives of the early soldiers of the cross.
With what emotions must the primitive believers, seeking refuge in these crypts, have held their solemn worsbip and heard the words of life, surrounded by the dead in Christ! With what power would come the promise of the resurrection of the body, amid the crumbling relics of mortality! How fervent their prayers for their companions in tribulation, when they themselves stood in jeopardy every hour! Their lioly ambition was to witness a good confession even unto death. They buined to emulate the zeal of the martyrs of the faith, the plumeless herocs of a nobler chivalry than that of arms, the Christian athletes who won in the bloody conflicts of the arena, or amid the fiery tortures of the stake, not a crown of laurel or of bay, but a crown of life, starry and unwithering, that can never pass away. Their
lun lle graves aie giander ninn euts tlan 11€ trophied tombs of Rome's pruud conquerors uron the Appian Way. Reverently may we mention their names. Lightly may weiread beside theirashcs.
Though the bodily presence of those conscripts of the ton bno longer walked among men, their intrepid spirit animated the heart of each member of that little community of persecuted Christians,
of whom the world was not worthy; who wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens und caves of the earth, being destitate, afflicted, tormented." * Compare the following spirited lines of Bernis :
“ La terre avait gemi sous le fer des tyrans ;
Poeme de la Religion Vengee, chap. viii.
UT what, meantime, had become of the
pursuers ? Baffled in their effort to seize their prey, and fearful of losing their way in this tangled labyrinth they had sullenly retreatcil, tracing their steps by the chalk-marks they had made upon the walls. At last, they returned to the stairway by which they had entered and so found their way above ground.
“This is no work for soldiers," muttered the disgustel officer, “hunting these rats through the'r underground runs. They are a skulking set of vermin."
“ What has become of that coward Greek ? asked the second in command. “He didn't seem to half like the job.”
“Is he not here? Then he must have made his escape,” said the Centurion. “ But if he is caught in that rat-trap, there let him stay. I'll